Makers’ most memorable gifts

Makers’ most memorable gifts

I’m giving a friend some Shapelock for Christmas this year – it’s such cool stuff, I can’t wait to see what she does with it! I realized that by traditional standards, that’s kind of an odd present, and it made me wonder what other people have given or gotten as gifts. I asked some Makers about their most memorable gifts and they shared these stories.

Adam Savage (Mythbusters) “The weirdest thing I’ve ever gotten was a pair of Mythbusters Sock Monkeys.”


Mitch Altman (inventor of the Brain Machine and TV-B-Gone)

“I live in a one-room studio apartment, so I have to be very selective what I bring into my small space. My mom was the kind of person who needed to give presents to be happy, and not wanting to squeeze me out, she would give me small items she picked up on her travels from around the world, some of which I kept, others of which I’d give away, in turn. I thought the most interesting items for a mom to give her son… was an opium pipe from Morocco (intricately carved and crafted, made from brass and wood), and a drug scale from Thailand (made of tree bark, full of details of various Budhist iconography). I still have these in my little room. One of the items I gave away was a loin covering from Nigeria that didn’t smell too good.”

Robert Thompson (author of Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments)

“I’ll have to think about that one. I usually only give and receive normal gifts, like the time I gave Barbara a set of metric sockets for our anniversary.

Paul Jones (my friend and tech advisor on the chem book) was supposed to bring me back a present the last time he was in Hawaii, and it would probably have made your oddest list. He was out there on a grant capturing sea slugs, which he needed for his work on photochemistry. (Did you know that some animals, including these sea slugs, do photosynthesis just like plants? I didn’t.) At any rate, he forgot to bring home a sea slug for me. Either that, or he thought I was kidding.”

Kaden Harris (author of Eccentric Cubicle)

“Just before Christmas In 1998, I met Kaia ‘The Sourceress’ Howe, at a time when the ebbs and flows of our respective lives were emphatically pegged on ‘ebb’. The holiday season was spent licking our wounds, hunkered down in her flat surrounded by her densely packed collection of amazing ‘stuff’, which runs the gamut from a grass skirt from the movie ‘South Pacific’ to carb rebuild kits for a 65 Dodge Dart. She’d just moved house, and there were a *lot* of settling in details still pending, so I spent much of my time doing my whole ‘improvisaional fabrication’ thing, bodging together furnishings, storage and interior design stuff from whatever I could lay my hands on. It was a surreally intense and emotional period for both of us, and ‘Making’ was our in-house therapy/ lessons for life learning lab.

Truly, truly life changing.

At some point Kai asked me what I was going to do with my life… I kinda mumbled something and went back to sanding down skidwood. She said ” I think you need to be an artist”.

Best. Gift. Ever.”


Lenore Edman (Evil Mad Scientist and Peggy)

“We were once given a rubber chicken, but I had always wanted a rubber chicken, so perhaps that wasn’t such an odd gift. I hung it by its
feet from the cookbook shelf, which seemed like a good place for it.
However, it was a really terrible (though brand-name) rubber chicken, and after having had it for a while, I realized that I don’t need a rubber chicken any more. Do you know anyone who needs an awful rubber chicken?

This year for his birthday, Windell received a duck call. It is exceedingly authentic, with a camouflage neck cord, instructions for use with several types of ducks, and dual functionality (both reed and whistle). It is quite useful for playing along with Monochrom’s latest collection, which has one piece with a wonderful part for duck call.

Chris once received a box full of flying screaming monkeys for his birthday. Although they were the hit of the party, this is not a gift that I recommend to anyone. Naturally, most of them were regifted to someone who was thrilled to receive a bag full of flying screaming monkeys until his toddler developed a flying screaming dislike of them.”

Gareth Branwyn (MAKE blogger and editor, The Best of Instructables)

“I have a history of giving people odd and unusual gifts. I used to get most of my presents from American Science & Surplus ( One year, I gave everyone Poo Pets. These were *handmade* statues of various critters (rabbits, turtles, “stool” pigeons) pressed out of manure. You put them in your garden and they slowly dissolved, fertilizing as they wasted away. Wrapped, the presents had a very… earthy odor, which somehow appealed to me. Another year, I gave Butterfly Gardens. These were a box with butterfly larvae and food in them (actually you had to send in a coupon for the larvae). You watched the larvae turn to chrysids and then into butterflies. You then let the butterflies go free. Another year, everybody got bags of rocks — geodes, actually. You wacked them with a hammer to reveal the crystalline structures inside. Some of them had no crystals, or not-so-great crystals, some revealed spectacular little crystal worlds, so there was chance involved. One year, I did most of my shopping from the Archie McPhee catalog ( That was fun. I bought all sorts of goofy bug-decorated pocket protectors, wind-up tin robots, and other Pee Wee Herman-worthy fare. For myself, I bought a gallon jar of plastic and rubber trinkets and charms, thousands of pieces. I used it in mail art, in a “bagazine” edition of my zine, Going Gaga, to decorate presents, as shut-up toys for visiting kids, etc. I still have about 3/4 of a gallon of this stuff in the plastic jug in my bedroom closet.”


Marc de Vinck (MAKE blogger, Fun with the Arduino Starter Kit)

“I made this silver & wood ring (and ring-box) for my girlfriend back in college. It’s all made by hand, even the tubing for the hinge is hand-drawn down from flat sheet stock. I guess she liked it since we have been married for over 10 years now!”


Becky Stern (MAKE/CRAFT blogger, Twitchie Scorpion)

“The strangest gift I’ve given is a handmade catnip fetus toy. I crochet or felt the body, stuff it with poly-fill or wool, and hide a bit of catnip in the center. Cats love them! Very popular with the hipsters.”

What are yours? Post them up in the comments!

8 thoughts on “Makers’ most memorable gifts

  1. Max says:

    Your comment system really sucks.

  2. Patti Schiendelman says:

    Max, could you be more specific? If there are problems, we want to know about it. :)

  3. gasbaslk says:

    what are those strange glasses xeni jardin is holding in that pic?

  4. Michael Fusion says:

    ive been know to give really strange gifts for christmas, once i gave my 52 year old mother a carribean singing kermit the frog, the funniest part was that if he was singing and you held his mouth shut he mumbled the song.

    i guess i’d have to say my most memorable gift was my original RIS 1.0 mindstorms set, it just grew and grew, now it’s completely set and separated into 8 flat tool boxes.

    also my own sleeping bag and tent when i was a kid, helped me love and respect the outdoors.

    wait. the most memorable gift i’ve ever gotten was learning how to give to the community, ever since i was about 6 i’ve been volunteering at community dinners, really makes the holidays special. and now that i’m not working, i give more time to the local community place, gets me out of the house and i get to feel like i’m making a difference.

    that is definitely what i would say is the best gift i’ve ever gotten, from my mom, the sense of community.

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